What Are Prune Plums and How Do I Use Them?

basket of prune plums.JPG
Carol Blonder
Prune plums

Recently I was picking through a pile of prune plums at the grocery. A fellow customer asked what they were and how to use them.

A signal that autumn is approaching is the sight of prune plums in the market. Ripe and ready from May through October, September is the month the prune plums are plentiful.

 Prune plums -- or Empress plums -- are a European plum noticeably different than other plums in the market distinguished by their smaller size, and oval rather than round shape. More dark blue than purple in color with a yellow-green interior, prune plums are a free stone (pit easily removed from flesh) fruit low in water content and high in sugar. Perfect for baking.

 Follow the jump for more on prune plums and a recipe.

My Midwestern memories include my grandparents' plum tree. The prune plums hung in clusters, dark blue against the bright green leaves of the tree. In grandmother's kitchen, Prune plums appeared in kuchen (cake) and jam.

Don't limit their use to sweets; prune plums make a great base for chutneys and sauces pairing nicely with meat, poultry, and game. (see tips)

Zwetschkenkuchen, the popular German coffee cake, is made with prune plums. Making a traditional coffee cake with yeast dough requires rising time and kneading time. Below a quick and easy recipe for an old fashioned baking powder coffee cake topped with prune plums.


Prune plum cake.JPG
Carol Blonder
Prune plum cake

Prune Plum Cake


3/8-cup sugar, sifted

¼ cup butter

1 egg, beaten

2/3-cup  milk

1 and 1/2 cups sifted (unbleached) AP four

¼ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon lemon zest or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

12-16 prune plums, halved, pits removed


1Tablespoon cold butter, cut in small pieces

Optional-1/2 cup walnuts or almonds, chopped

Raw sugar, to sprinkle over top

Cinnamon, to sprinkle over top


Preheat oven to 375 F

Butter a 9-inch pie pan or an 8 x 10 inch shallow baking dish


In a mixing bowl beat the butter until creamy, gradually add the sugar, and continue to beat until fluffy and very light in color

Stir in the egg and gradually add the milk to the mixture

Sift the flour with the salt and baking powder

Divide the flour mixture, and add in two additions

Note: allow the first addition of flour to be absorbed in the batter before adding second addition. Do not over beat.

Add the lemon zest and stir

Mix the batter until it has incorporated all ingredients and it is smooth

Pour batter into prepared baking dish

Top the batter with halved prune plums, round side own, and gently press into batter

Prune plum cake ready to bake.JPG
Carol Blonder
Ready to bake

Optional - sprinkle with chopped nuts, top with 1/8-1/4 cup raw sugar mixed with ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Dot with butter pieces

Bake for 25 minutes


Serve with crème fresh or vanilla ice cream

 Tips: substitute prune plums for the cherries in clafoutis, atop pastry crust and pastry cream on a tart, or combined with pears or peaches in chutney.

Always taste the fruit you use in baking to determine if the recipe needs to be adjusted for sweet-tart balance.





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